How to Find the Right Paralegal School Near Bethel Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bethel AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Bethel homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Bethel AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Bethel AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Bethel AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bethel AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Bethel AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Bethel AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Bethel AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Bethel AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Bethel AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Bethel Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Bethel home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bethel Alaska.